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  • How to write a research paper

Last updated

11 January 2024

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With proper planning, knowledge, and framework, completing a research paper can be a fulfilling and exciting experience. 

Though it might initially sound slightly intimidating, this guide will help you embrace the challenge. 

By documenting your findings, you can inspire others and make a difference in your field. Here's how you can make your research paper unique and comprehensive.

  • What is a research paper?

Research papers allow you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic. These papers are usually lengthier and more detailed than typical essays, requiring deeper insight into the chosen topic.

To write a research paper, you must first choose a topic that interests you and is relevant to the field of study. Once you’ve selected your topic, gathering as many relevant resources as possible, including books, scholarly articles, credible websites, and other academic materials, is essential. You must then read and analyze these sources, summarizing their key points and identifying gaps in the current research.

You can formulate your ideas and opinions once you thoroughly understand the existing research. To get there might involve conducting original research, gathering data, or analyzing existing data sets. It could also involve presenting an original argument or interpretation of the existing research.

Writing a successful research paper involves presenting your findings clearly and engagingly, which might involve using charts, graphs, or other visual aids to present your data and using concise language to explain your findings. You must also ensure your paper adheres to relevant academic formatting guidelines, including proper citations and references.

Overall, writing a research paper requires a significant amount of time, effort, and attention to detail. However, it is also an enriching experience that allows you to delve deeply into a subject that interests you and contribute to the existing body of knowledge in your chosen field.

  • How long should a research paper be?

Research papers are deep dives into a topic. Therefore, they tend to be longer pieces of work than essays or opinion pieces. 

However, a suitable length depends on the complexity of the topic and your level of expertise. For instance, are you a first-year college student or an experienced professional? 

Also, remember that the best research papers provide valuable information for the benefit of others. Therefore, the quality of information matters most, not necessarily the length. Being concise is valuable.

Following these best practice steps will help keep your process simple and productive:

1. Gaining a deep understanding of any expectations

Before diving into your intended topic or beginning the research phase, take some time to orient yourself. Suppose there’s a specific topic assigned to you. In that case, it’s essential to deeply understand the question and organize your planning and approach in response. Pay attention to the key requirements and ensure you align your writing accordingly. 

This preparation step entails

Deeply understanding the task or assignment

Being clear about the expected format and length

Familiarizing yourself with the citation and referencing requirements 

Understanding any defined limits for your research contribution

Where applicable, speaking to your professor or research supervisor for further clarification

2. Choose your research topic

Select a research topic that aligns with both your interests and available resources. Ideally, focus on a field where you possess significant experience and analytical skills. In crafting your research paper, it's crucial to go beyond summarizing existing data and contribute fresh insights to the chosen area.

Consider narrowing your focus to a specific aspect of the topic. For example, if exploring the link between technology and mental health, delve into how social media use during the pandemic impacts the well-being of college students. Conducting interviews and surveys with students could provide firsthand data and unique perspectives, adding substantial value to the existing knowledge.

When finalizing your topic, adhere to legal and ethical norms in the relevant area (this ensures the integrity of your research, protects participants' rights, upholds intellectual property standards, and ensures transparency and accountability). Following these principles not only maintains the credibility of your work but also builds trust within your academic or professional community.

For instance, in writing about medical research, consider legal and ethical norms, including patient confidentiality laws and informed consent requirements. Similarly, if analyzing user data on social media platforms, be mindful of data privacy regulations, ensuring compliance with laws governing personal information collection and use. Aligning with legal and ethical standards not only avoids potential issues but also underscores the responsible conduct of your research.

3. Gather preliminary research

Once you’ve landed on your topic, it’s time to explore it further. You’ll want to discover more about available resources and existing research relevant to your assignment at this stage. 

This exploratory phase is vital as you may discover issues with your original idea or realize you have insufficient resources to explore the topic effectively. This key bit of groundwork allows you to redirect your research topic in a different, more feasible, or more relevant direction if necessary. 

Spending ample time at this stage ensures you gather everything you need, learn as much as you can about the topic, and discover gaps where the topic has yet to be sufficiently covered, offering an opportunity to research it further. 

4. Define your research question

To produce a well-structured and focused paper, it is imperative to formulate a clear and precise research question that will guide your work. Your research question must be informed by the existing literature and tailored to the scope and objectives of your project. By refining your focus, you can produce a thoughtful and engaging paper that effectively communicates your ideas to your readers.

5. Write a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a one-to-two-sentence summary of your research paper's main argument or direction. It serves as an overall guide to summarize the overall intent of the research paper for you and anyone wanting to know more about the research.

A strong thesis statement is:

Concise and clear: Explain your case in simple sentences (avoid covering multiple ideas). It might help to think of this section as an elevator pitch.

Specific: Ensure that there is no ambiguity in your statement and that your summary covers the points argued in the paper.

Debatable: A thesis statement puts forward a specific argument––it is not merely a statement but a debatable point that can be analyzed and discussed.

Here are three thesis statement examples from different disciplines:

Psychology thesis example: "We're studying adults aged 25-40 to see if taking short breaks for mindfulness can help with stress. Our goal is to find practical ways to manage anxiety better."

Environmental science thesis example: "This research paper looks into how having more city parks might make the air cleaner and keep people healthier. I want to find out if more green spaces means breathing fewer carcinogens in big cities."

UX research thesis example: "This study focuses on improving mobile banking for older adults using ethnographic research, eye-tracking analysis, and interactive prototyping. We investigate the usefulness of eye-tracking analysis with older individuals, aiming to spark debate and offer fresh perspectives on UX design and digital inclusivity for the aging population."

6. Conduct in-depth research

A research paper doesn’t just include research that you’ve uncovered from other papers and studies but your fresh insights, too. You will seek to become an expert on your topic––understanding the nuances in the current leading theories. You will analyze existing research and add your thinking and discoveries.  It's crucial to conduct well-designed research that is rigorous, robust, and based on reliable sources. Suppose a research paper lacks evidence or is biased. In that case, it won't benefit the academic community or the general public. Therefore, examining the topic thoroughly and furthering its understanding through high-quality research is essential. That usually means conducting new research. Depending on the area under investigation, you may conduct surveys, interviews, diary studies, or observational research to uncover new insights or bolster current claims.

7. Determine supporting evidence

Not every piece of research you’ve discovered will be relevant to your research paper. It’s important to categorize the most meaningful evidence to include alongside your discoveries. It's important to include evidence that doesn't support your claims to avoid exclusion bias and ensure a fair research paper.

8. Write a research paper outline

Before diving in and writing the whole paper, start with an outline. It will help you to see if more research is needed, and it will provide a framework by which to write a more compelling paper. Your supervisor may even request an outline to approve before beginning to write the first draft of the full paper. An outline will include your topic, thesis statement, key headings, short summaries of the research, and your arguments.

9. Write your first draft

Once you feel confident about your outline and sources, it’s time to write your first draft. While penning a long piece of content can be intimidating, if you’ve laid the groundwork, you will have a structure to help you move steadily through each section. To keep up motivation and inspiration, it’s often best to keep the pace quick. Stopping for long periods can interrupt your flow and make jumping back in harder than writing when things are fresh in your mind.

10. Cite your sources correctly

It's always a good practice to give credit where it's due, and the same goes for citing any works that have influenced your paper. Building your arguments on credible references adds value and authenticity to your research. In the formatting guidelines section, you’ll find an overview of different citation styles (MLA, CMOS, or APA), which will help you meet any publishing or academic requirements and strengthen your paper's credibility. It is essential to follow the guidelines provided by your school or the publication you are submitting to ensure the accuracy and relevance of your citations.

11. Ensure your work is original

It is crucial to ensure the originality of your paper, as plagiarism can lead to serious consequences. To avoid plagiarism, you should use proper paraphrasing and quoting techniques. Paraphrasing is rewriting a text in your own words while maintaining the original meaning. Quoting involves directly citing the source. Giving credit to the original author or source is essential whenever you borrow their ideas or words. You can also use plagiarism detection tools such as Scribbr or Grammarly to check the originality of your paper. These tools compare your draft writing to a vast database of online sources. If you find any accidental plagiarism, you should correct it immediately by rephrasing or citing the source.

12. Revise, edit, and proofread

One of the essential qualities of excellent writers is their ability to understand the importance of editing and proofreading. Even though it's tempting to call it a day once you've finished your writing, editing your work can significantly improve its quality. It's natural to overlook the weaker areas when you've just finished writing a paper. Therefore, it's best to take a break of a day or two, or even up to a week, to refresh your mind. This way, you can return to your work with a new perspective. After some breathing room, you can spot any inconsistencies, spelling and grammar errors, typos, or missing citations and correct them. 

  • The best research paper format 

The format of your research paper should align with the requirements set forth by your college, school, or target publication. 

There is no one “best” format, per se. Depending on the stated requirements, you may need to include the following elements:

Title page: The title page of a research paper typically includes the title, author's name, and institutional affiliation and may include additional information such as a course name or instructor's name. 

Table of contents: Include a table of contents to make it easy for readers to find specific sections of your paper.

Abstract: The abstract is a summary of the purpose of the paper.

Methods : In this section, describe the research methods used. This may include collecting data, conducting interviews, or doing field research.

Results: Summarize the conclusions you drew from your research in this section.

Discussion: In this section, discuss the implications of your research. Be sure to mention any significant limitations to your approach and suggest areas for further research.

Tables, charts, and illustrations: Use tables, charts, and illustrations to help convey your research findings and make them easier to understand.

Works cited or reference page: Include a works cited or reference page to give credit to the sources that you used to conduct your research.

Bibliography: Provide a list of all the sources you consulted while conducting your research.

Dedication and acknowledgments : Optionally, you may include a dedication and acknowledgments section to thank individuals who helped you with your research.

  • General style and formatting guidelines

Formatting your research paper means you can submit it to your college, journal, or other publications in compliance with their criteria.

Research papers tend to follow the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) guidelines.

Here’s how each style guide is typically used:

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS):

CMOS is a versatile style guide used for various types of writing. It's known for its flexibility and use in the humanities. CMOS provides guidelines for citations, formatting, and overall writing style. It allows for both footnotes and in-text citations, giving writers options based on their preferences or publication requirements.

American Psychological Association (APA):

APA is common in the social sciences. It’s hailed for its clarity and emphasis on precision. It has specific rules for citing sources, creating references, and formatting papers. APA style uses in-text citations with an accompanying reference list. It's designed to convey information efficiently and is widely used in academic and scientific writing.

Modern Language Association (MLA):

MLA is widely used in the humanities, especially literature and language studies. It emphasizes the author-page format for in-text citations and provides guidelines for creating a "Works Cited" page. MLA is known for its focus on the author's name and the literary works cited. It’s frequently used in disciplines that prioritize literary analysis and critical thinking.

To confirm you're using the latest style guide, check the official website or publisher's site for updates, consult academic resources, and verify the guide's publication date. Online platforms and educational resources may also provide summaries and alerts about any revisions or additions to the style guide.

Citing sources

When working on your research paper, it's important to cite the sources you used properly. Your citation style will guide you through this process. Generally, there are three parts to citing sources in your research paper: 

First, provide a brief citation in the body of your essay. This is also known as a parenthetical or in-text citation. 

Second, include a full citation in the Reference list at the end of your paper. Different types of citations include in-text citations, footnotes, and reference lists. 

In-text citations include the author's surname and the date of the citation. 

Footnotes appear at the bottom of each page of your research paper. They may also be summarized within a reference list at the end of the paper. 

A reference list includes all of the research used within the paper at the end of the document. It should include the author, date, paper title, and publisher listed in the order that aligns with your citation style.

10 research paper writing tips:

Following some best practices is essential to writing a research paper that contributes to your field of study and creates a positive impact.

These tactics will help you structure your argument effectively and ensure your work benefits others:

Clear and precise language:  Ensure your language is unambiguous. Use academic language appropriately, but keep it simple. Also, provide clear takeaways for your audience.

Effective idea separation:  Organize the vast amount of information and sources in your paper with paragraphs and titles. Create easily digestible sections for your readers to navigate through.

Compelling intro:  Craft an engaging introduction that captures your reader's interest. Hook your audience and motivate them to continue reading.

Thorough revision and editing:  Take the time to review and edit your paper comprehensively. Use tools like Grammarly to detect and correct small, overlooked errors.

Thesis precision:  Develop a clear and concise thesis statement that guides your paper. Ensure that your thesis aligns with your research's overall purpose and contribution.

Logical flow of ideas:  Maintain a logical progression throughout the paper. Use transitions effectively to connect different sections and maintain coherence.

Critical evaluation of sources:  Evaluate and critically assess the relevance and reliability of your sources. Ensure that your research is based on credible and up-to-date information.

Thematic consistency:  Maintain a consistent theme throughout the paper. Ensure that all sections contribute cohesively to the overall argument.

Relevant supporting evidence:  Provide concise and relevant evidence to support your arguments. Avoid unnecessary details that may distract from the main points.

Embrace counterarguments:  Acknowledge and address opposing views to strengthen your position. Show that you have considered alternative arguments in your field.

7 research tips 

If you want your paper to not only be well-written but also contribute to the progress of human knowledge, consider these tips to take your paper to the next level:

Selecting the appropriate topic: The topic you select should align with your area of expertise, comply with the requirements of your project, and have sufficient resources for a comprehensive investigation.

Use academic databases: Academic databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and JSTOR offer a wealth of research papers that can help you discover everything you need to know about your chosen topic.

Critically evaluate sources: It is important not to accept research findings at face value. Instead, it is crucial to critically analyze the information to avoid jumping to conclusions or overlooking important details. A well-written research paper requires a critical analysis with thorough reasoning to support claims.

Diversify your sources: Expand your research horizons by exploring a variety of sources beyond the standard databases. Utilize books, conference proceedings, and interviews to gather diverse perspectives and enrich your understanding of the topic.

Take detailed notes: Detailed note-taking is crucial during research and can help you form the outline and body of your paper.

Stay up on trends: Keep abreast of the latest developments in your field by regularly checking for recent publications. Subscribe to newsletters, follow relevant journals, and attend conferences to stay informed about emerging trends and advancements. 

Engage in peer review: Seek feedback from peers or mentors to ensure the rigor and validity of your research. Peer review helps identify potential weaknesses in your methodology and strengthens the overall credibility of your findings.

  • The real-world impact of research papers

Writing a research paper is more than an academic or business exercise. The experience provides an opportunity to explore a subject in-depth, broaden one's understanding, and arrive at meaningful conclusions. With careful planning, dedication, and hard work, writing a research paper can be a fulfilling and enriching experience contributing to advancing knowledge.

How do I publish my research paper? 

Many academics wish to publish their research papers. While challenging, your paper might get traction if it covers new and well-written information. To publish your research paper, find a target publication, thoroughly read their guidelines, format your paper accordingly, and send it to them per their instructions. You may need to include a cover letter, too. After submission, your paper may be peer-reviewed by experts to assess its legitimacy, quality, originality, and methodology. Following review, you will be informed by the publication whether they have accepted or rejected your paper. 

What is a good opening sentence for a research paper? 

Beginning your research paper with a compelling introduction can ensure readers are interested in going further. A relevant quote, a compelling statistic, or a bold argument can start the paper and hook your reader. Remember, though, that the most important aspect of a research paper is the quality of the information––not necessarily your ability to storytell, so ensure anything you write aligns with your goals.

Research paper vs. a research proposal—what’s the difference?

While some may confuse research papers and proposals, they are different documents. 

A research proposal comes before a research paper. It is a detailed document that outlines an intended area of exploration. It includes the research topic, methodology, timeline, sources, and potential conclusions. Research proposals are often required when seeking approval to conduct research. 

A research paper is a summary of research findings. A research paper follows a structured format to present those findings and construct an argument or conclusion.

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Tips for Writing an Effective Research Paper

Tips for Writing an Effective Research Paper

If you aren’t familiar with what a research paper is, let me give you’re a rundown of the definition: a research paper is a form of academic writing that has theoretical and substantial information that has gone through the proper process of in-depth research. It could contain arguments based on a thesis with significant evidence from a variety of supporting and reliable sources.

If you ask many individuals, they may say that writing a research paper is one challenging and meticulous task. But with enough practice throughout the years in school, it could be much easier once you get used to it. It definitely is meticulous because of the intensive research that comes with it, but if you really look at the big picture of it, a research paper just needs a few basic tips for it to be less challenging for individuals that are struggling. Before we start with the tips for writing an effective research paper, have the following materials:

tips for writing research papers

  • Note paper (make sure you have enough because you may be jotting down a lot of notes)
  • Two or three different colored highlighters (for highlighting notes)
  • Index cards

Organization is Key

Follow these substantial steps to be organized in writing a research paper:

  • Select your topic carefully
  • Choose sources that will be helpful and make sure they are reliable
  • Index cards should be used to jot down helpful notes that you may need throughout the process or writing
  • Your notes should be organized based on the topic it is under
  • Have an outline that is well thought of
  • Write a first draft so you have a skeleton of what your research paper
  • Go through your first draft, read it thoroughly and re-write
  • Edit when it is needed

Do the proper research

If you want to find helpful and reliable sources of information, the library is literally the best place to look around. There are numerous books, published articles, journals and etc. that you can choose from about your chosen topic. Choose a comfortable place in your local library where you are away from distractions and you can focus on the work that needs to be done. Try using the card catalog and computers available to make your search easier.

Choose your research topic carefully

If you have the freedom to choose what your research paper could be about, take advantage of the situation and choose a topic that you are interested in or a topic you are curious about. By doing this, it gives you motivation to do necessary research for it. Be specific when selecting a topic because most writers make a mistake in choosing a topic that is too general.

Jot down the proper notes

Like our first tip, be organized when it comes to writing down your notes. Take note of the information that will only be of help to you. Try color coding your notes by topic and you can use highlighters for marking the beneficial details so you can find that specific topic very easily. If you’re allowed, you can also photocopy an article or page from a book that you’ll need. This is best if there is too much to note down on paper. It will definitely save you time. Every time you note something down, make sure to write down the bibliographical information such as the author, the book title, page numbers used, volume number and publisher’s name and vital dates.

Brainstorm an outline

After in-depth research, you can proceed to writing an outline. With all the notes and vital information that you gathered, start brainstorming where those certain topics fit in. To “brainstorm an outline” doesn’t mean that they have to be structured in sentences. Note down what part would be the beginning, middle and end. This is the part where your research paper starts to take shape.

Write a first draft

After your outline, you can start on your first draft. Take your outline and get the ideas jotted down and form sentences and paragraphs with them. This is the part where you put more detail and life into the paper so people can read it and actually understand it. You can do more needed research if you feel like you’re lacking information. This is only the first draft, so you can still make changes as you go on.

Proofread and write your final paper

Once you reread your first draft over and over and make the necessary changes you feel you should make, it is time to write your final draft. Make sure that all the vital information is included and your paragraphs and sentences make sense and has a steady and natural flow all throughout. Check for typographical and grammatical errors. Spelling is also another thing you want to check for. Make sure that every source that you used is in the bibliography page because this is vital to your research paper.

When you’re finished with your final paper, do the final adjustments as needed. Read it as many times as you want and even ask a friend or professor to go through it and give out their opinion.

tips for writing research papers

Sandra Miller

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Writing a Research Paper

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

The pages in this section provide detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

The Research Paper

There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.

The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:

  • Genre - This section will provide an overview for understanding the difference between an analytical and argumentative research paper.
  • Choosing a Topic - This section will guide the student through the process of choosing topics, whether the topic be one that is assigned or one that the student chooses themselves.
  • Identifying an Audience - This section will help the student understand the often times confusing topic of audience by offering some basic guidelines for the process.
  • Where Do I Begin - This section concludes the handout by offering several links to resources at Purdue, and also provides an overview of the final stages of writing a research paper.

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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writing research paper

A Comprehensive Guide To Writing A Research Paper

Research paper is something that many students are dreading. That is why we have prepared this guide – you can conquer the fear if you better understand the topic. You may also use services like “my paper writer” if you run out of time.

A Short Overview

Let’s first start by outlining what this article is all about and who may benefit from reading it. You may be an experienced student or professional, yet you could still use some techniques to improve your writing – this article is for you. Moreover, the article should benefit beginners, like students or those writing a research paper for the first time.

We’ll help you choose a topic, describe how to start your research, and shape a good thesis statement. After reading this article, you’ll effectively structure your paper. However, you could always benefit from the write my paper service if you’re at a dead-end. We’ll also share a few valuable tips. By the end of this article, you’ll learn what tools to use to improve your work and the necessary knowledge.

Understanding The Main Features Of A Research Paper

A research paper is an academic work that requires the writer to analyze loads of information and develop good ideas. The research paper is like a detective story, where the researcher becomes an investigator, gathers evidence, analyzes this evidence, and then comes up with a solution.

These papers are a staple in academia, used by students, scholars, and scientists to share their discoveries with the world. These are the reasons for writing research papers:

  • Academic recognition. Writing such papers is a crucial way to gain recognition in the academic community.
  • Intellectual development. It helps you grow intellectually and mature academically, which is useful for your future career.
  • In-depth exploration. Research papers demand thorough research and an understanding of the subject matter.
  • Knowledge expansion. Writing a research paper involves extensive reading and analysis to broaden your understanding.
  • Communication skills. Research papers improve written and oral communication abilities so that students can benefit from them in the future.
  • Critical thinking. Writing research papers means that you must draw your own conclusions. Thus, writing such a work helps with analytical thinking and logical reasoning.
  • Original contribution. Students and scholars should aim to make a unique mark in their field of study. Simply put, you could make a difference.
  • Rigorous methodology. Research papers follow a systematic approach to ensure trustworthy results. Thus, you can learn to write papers according to strict instructions and general recommendations to meet standards.

Naturally, the main goal is to expand your knowledge, especially in your field. If you’re currently working on your degree, writing a research paper should help you accumulate the necessary knowledge that will help you in your chosen career path.

The Length Of A Research Paper

The suitable length for your research paper can depend on your academic field, the type of research, and the specific instructions provided by your institution, target journal, professors, etc. Simply put, research papers should be of a length that enables them to communicate your research findings and substantiate the arguments you present.

Still, it’s crucial to maintain a level of conciseness and avoid unnecessary repetition or unnecessary details, as no one appreciates reading the same information just for the sake of the writer meeting the necessary number of pages/words. Suppose you can’t come up with more thoughts or information. In that case, you can consult your supervisor (a professor, editor, etc.) to get advice and see if it’s necessary to add more information or if the topic doesn’t demand more data.

For most undergraduate assignments, research papers usually span 5 to 15 pages, although this range may vary depending on the course and your professor’s specific requirements. Most graduate-level research papers and those destined for publication in academic journals can be significantly longer (20, 30, or even 50 pages).

Some journals or conferences may prescribe specific guidelines related to submission word limits. In these cases, adherence to the instructions isn’t just recommended; it’s a must, or the work may not be accepted. If you adhere to the rules, you get a better chance of getting published or having your research accepted.

10 Tips For Writing A Perfect Research Paper

Writing a research paper can be a challenging but rewarding task, so we can’t leave you without tips. Here are the ten steps to help you through the process:

  • Understand the assignment. Start by reviewing your assignment guidelines to grasp what’s expected.
  • Do initial research. Gather preliminary studies to refine your topic and shape your thesis.
  • Use only credible sources. Find reputable sources to support your research and use relevant information to avoid making false claims or not backing up your argument.
  • Write the first draft. Begin with an engaging introduction, present your findings, and conclude.
  • Proofread and edit. Check your work for structure, clarity, grammar, and spelling.
  • Choose an attractive, less-researched topic. Select a substantial and exciting topic that genuinely interests you.
  • Create a thesis. Create a statement that outlines your main argument.
  • Create an outline. Organize your thoughts, topics, arguments, and supporting evidence.
  • Cite sources properly. Follow the required formatting style and ensure accurate source citations. You can use various online tools that help with this task.
  • Use convenient tools and resources. Use tools like Grammarly, Mendeley, JSTOR, Tableau, and Overleaf to aid your research and writing.

These steps provide a clear idea of where to start and what to do until the end.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, you should always have a clear plan to understand where to begin, how to proceed, and how to end the research paper. Always use credible sources, and don’t shy away from using online helpers and tools that improve your writing.

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  • How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

The discussion section contains the results and outcomes of a study. An effective discussion informs readers what can be learned from your experiment and provides context for the results.

What makes an effective discussion?

When you’re ready to write your discussion, you’ve already introduced the purpose of your study and provided an in-depth description of the methodology. The discussion informs readers about the larger implications of your study based on the results. Highlighting these implications while not overstating the findings can be challenging, especially when you’re submitting to a journal that selects articles based on novelty or potential impact. Regardless of what journal you are submitting to, the discussion section always serves the same purpose: concluding what your study results actually mean.

A successful discussion section puts your findings in context. It should include:

  • the results of your research,
  • a discussion of related research, and
  • a comparison between your results and initial hypothesis.

Tip: Not all journals share the same naming conventions.

You can apply the advice in this article to the conclusion, results or discussion sections of your manuscript.

Our Early Career Researcher community tells us that the conclusion is often considered the most difficult aspect of a manuscript to write. To help, this guide provides questions to ask yourself, a basic structure to model your discussion off of and examples from published manuscripts. 

tips for writing research papers

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Was my hypothesis correct?
  • If my hypothesis is partially correct or entirely different, what can be learned from the results? 
  • How do the conclusions reshape or add onto the existing knowledge in the field? What does previous research say about the topic? 
  • Why are the results important or relevant to your audience? Do they add further evidence to a scientific consensus or disprove prior studies? 
  • How can future research build on these observations? What are the key experiments that must be done? 
  • What is the “take-home” message you want your reader to leave with?

How to structure a discussion

Trying to fit a complete discussion into a single paragraph can add unnecessary stress to the writing process. If possible, you’ll want to give yourself two or three paragraphs to give the reader a comprehensive understanding of your study as a whole. Here’s one way to structure an effective discussion:

tips for writing research papers

Writing Tips

While the above sections can help you brainstorm and structure your discussion, there are many common mistakes that writers revert to when having difficulties with their paper. Writing a discussion can be a delicate balance between summarizing your results, providing proper context for your research and avoiding introducing new information. Remember that your paper should be both confident and honest about the results! 

What to do

  • Read the journal’s guidelines on the discussion and conclusion sections. If possible, learn about the guidelines before writing the discussion to ensure you’re writing to meet their expectations. 
  • Begin with a clear statement of the principal findings. This will reinforce the main take-away for the reader and set up the rest of the discussion. 
  • Explain why the outcomes of your study are important to the reader. Discuss the implications of your findings realistically based on previous literature, highlighting both the strengths and limitations of the research. 
  • State whether the results prove or disprove your hypothesis. If your hypothesis was disproved, what might be the reasons? 
  • Introduce new or expanded ways to think about the research question. Indicate what next steps can be taken to further pursue any unresolved questions. 
  • If dealing with a contemporary or ongoing problem, such as climate change, discuss possible consequences if the problem is avoided. 
  • Be concise. Adding unnecessary detail can distract from the main findings. 

What not to do


  • Rewrite your abstract. Statements with “we investigated” or “we studied” generally do not belong in the discussion. 
  • Include new arguments or evidence not previously discussed. Necessary information and evidence should be introduced in the main body of the paper. 
  • Apologize. Even if your research contains significant limitations, don’t undermine your authority by including statements that doubt your methodology or execution. 
  • Shy away from speaking on limitations or negative results. Including limitations and negative results will give readers a complete understanding of the presented research. Potential limitations include sources of potential bias, threats to internal or external validity, barriers to implementing an intervention and other issues inherent to the study design. 
  • Overstate the importance of your findings. Making grand statements about how a study will fully resolve large questions can lead readers to doubt the success of the research. 

Snippets of Effective Discussions:

Consumer-based actions to reduce plastic pollution in rivers: A multi-criteria decision analysis approach

Identifying reliable indicators of fitness in polar bears

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  • How to Do Research for an Excellent Essay: The Complete Guide

tips for writing research papers

One of the biggest secrets to writing a good essay is the Boy Scouts’ motto: ‘be prepared’. Preparing for an essay – by conducting effective research – lays the foundations for a brilliant piece of writing, and it’s every bit as important as the actual writing part. Many students skimp on this crucial stage, or sit in the library not really sure where to start; and it shows in the quality of their essays. This just makes it easier for you to get ahead of your peers, and we’re going to show you how. In this article, we take you through what you need to do in order to conduct effective research and use your research time to best effect.

Allow enough time

First and foremost, it’s vital to allow enough time for your research. For this reason, don’t leave your essay until the last minute . If you start writing without having done adequate research, it will almost certainly show in your essay’s lack of quality. The amount of research time needed will vary according to whether you’re at Sixth Form or university, and according to how well you know the topic and what teaching you’ve had on it, but make sure you factor in more time than you think you’ll need. You may come across a concept that takes you longer to understand than you’d expected, so it’s better to allow too much time than too little.

Read the essay question and thoroughly understand it

If you don’t have a thorough understanding of what the essay question is asking you to do, you put yourself at risk of going in the wrong direction with your research. So take the question, read it several times and pull out the key things it’s asking you to do. The instructions in the question are likely to have some bearing on the nature of your research. If the question says “Compare”, for example, this will set you up for a particular kind of research, during which you’ll be looking specifically for points of comparison; if the question asks you to “Discuss”, your research focus may be more on finding different points of view and formulating your own.

Begin with a brainstorm

Start your research time by brainstorming what you already know. Doing this means that you can be clear about exactly what you’re already aware of, and you can identify the gaps in your knowledge so that you don’t end up wasting time by reading books that will tell you what you already know. This gives your research more of a direction and allows you to be more specific in your efforts to find out certain things. It’s also a gentle way of introducing yourself to the task and putting yourself in the right frame of mind for learning about the topic at hand.

Achieve a basic understanding before delving deeper

If the topic is new to you and your brainstorm has yielded few ideas, you’ll need to acquire a basic understanding of the topic before you begin delving deeper into your research. If you don’t, and you start by your research by jumping straight in at the deep end, as it were, you’ll struggle to grasp the topic. This also means that you may end up being too swayed by a certain source, as you haven’t the knowledge to question it properly. You need sufficient background knowledge to be able to take a critical approach to each of the sources you read. So, start from the very beginning. It’s ok to use Wikipedia or other online resources to give you an introduction to a topic, though bear in mind that these can’t be wholly relied upon. If you’ve covered the topic in class already, re-read the notes you made so that you can refresh your mind before you start further investigation.

Working through your reading list

If you’ve been given a reading list to work from, be organised in how you work through each of the items on it. Try to get hold of as many of the books on it as you can before you start, so that you have them all easily to hand, and can refer back to things you’ve read and compare them with other perspectives. Plan the order in which you’re going to work through them and try to allocate a specific amount of time to each of them; this ensures that you allow enough time to do each of them justice and that focus yourself on making the most of your time with each one. It’s a good idea to go for the more general resources before honing in on the finer points mentioned in more specialised literature. Think of an upside-down pyramid and how it starts off wide at the top and becomes gradually narrower; this is the sort of framework you should apply to your research.

Ask a librarian

Library computer databases can be confusing things, and can add an extra layer of stress and complexity to your research if you’re not used to using them. The librarian is there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to go and ask if you’re not sure where to find a particular book on your reading list. If you’re in need of somewhere to start, they should be able to point you in the direction of the relevant section of the library so that you can also browse for books that may yield useful information.

Use the index

If you haven’t been given specific pages to read in the books on your reading list, make use of the index (and/or table of contents) of each book to help you find relevant material. It sounds obvious, but some students don’t think to do this and battle their way through heaps of irrelevant chapters before finding something that will be useful for their essay.

Taking notes

As you work through your reading, take notes as you go along rather than hoping you’ll remember everything you’ve read. Don’t indiscriminately write down everything – only the bits that will be useful in answering the essay question you’ve been set. If you write down too much, you risk writing an essay that’s full of irrelevant material and getting lower grades as a result. Be concise, and summarise arguments in your own words when you make notes (this helps you learn it better, too, because you actually have to think about how best to summarise it). You may want to make use of small index cards to force you to be brief with what you write about each point or topic. We’ve covered effective note-taking extensively in another article, which you can read here . Note-taking is a major part of the research process, so don’t neglect it. Your notes don’t just come in useful in the short-term, for completing your essay, but they should also be helpful when it comes to revision time, so try to keep them organised.

Research every side of the argument

Never rely too heavily on one resource without referring to other possible opinions; it’s bad academic practice. You need to be able to give a balanced argument in an essay, and that means researching a range of perspectives on whatever problem you’re tackling. Keep a note of the different arguments, along with the evidence in support of or against each one, ready to be deployed into an essay structure that works logically through each one. If you see a scholar’s name cropping up again and again in what you read, it’s worth investigating more about them even if you haven’t specifically been told to do so. Context is vital in academia at any level, so influential figures are always worth knowing about.

Keep a dictionary by your side

You could completely misunderstand a point you read if you don’t know what one important word in the sentence means. For that reason, it’s a good idea to keep a dictionary by your side at all times as you conduct your research. Not only does this help you fully understand what you’re reading, but you also learn new words that you might be able to use in your forthcoming essay or a future one . Growing your vocabulary is never a waste of time!

Start formulating your own opinion

As you work through reading these different points of view, think carefully about what you’ve read and note your own response to different opinions. Get into the habit of questioning sources and make sure you’re not just repeating someone else’s opinion without challenging it. Does an opinion make sense? Does it have plenty of evidence to back it up? What are the counter-arguments, and on balance, which sways you more? Demonstrating your own intelligent thinking will set your essay apart from those of your peers, so think about these things as you conduct your research.

Be careful with web-based research

Although, as we’ve said already, it’s fine to use Wikipedia and other online resources to give you a bit of an introduction to a topic you haven’t covered before, be very careful when using the internet for researching an essay. Don’t take Wikipedia as gospel; don’t forget, anybody can edit it! We wouldn’t advise using the internet as the basis of your essay research – it’s simply not academically rigorous enough, and you don’t know how out of date a particular resource might be. Even if your Sixth Form teachers may not question where you picked up an idea you’ve discussed in your essays, it’s still not a good habit to get into and you’re unlikely to get away with it at a good university. That said, there are still reliable academic resources available via the internet; these can be found in dedicated sites that are essentially online libraries, such as JSTOR. These are likely to be a little too advanced if you’re still in Sixth Form, but you’ll almost certainly come across them once you get to university.

Look out for footnotes

In an academic publication, whether that’s a book or a journal article, footnotes are a great place to look for further ideas for publications that might yield useful information. Plenty can be hidden away in footnotes, and if a writer is disparaging or supporting the ideas of another academic, you could look up the text in question so that you can include their opinion too, and whether or not you agree with them, for extra brownie points.

Don’t save doing all your own references until last

If you’re still in Sixth Form, you might not yet be required to include academic references in your essays, but for the sake of a thorough guide to essay research that will be useful to you in the future, we’re going to include this point anyway (it will definitely come in useful when you get to university, so you may as well start thinking about it now!). As you read through various books and find points you think you’re going to want to make in your essays, make sure you note down where you found these points as you go along (author’s first and last name, the publication title, publisher, publication date and page number). When you get to university you will be expected to identify your sources very precisely, so it’s a good habit to get into. Unfortunately, many students forget to do this and then have a difficult time of going back through their essay adding footnotes and trying to remember where they found a particular point. You’ll save yourself a great deal of time and effort if you simply note down your academic references as you go along. If you are including footnotes, don’t forget to add each publication to a main bibliography, to be included at the end of your essay, at the same time.

Putting in the background work required to write a good essay can seem an arduous task at times, but it’s a fundamental step that can’t simply be skipped. The more effort you put in at this stage, the better your essay will be and the easier it will be to write. Use the tips in this article and you’ll be well on your way to an essay that impresses!

To get even more prepared for essay writing you might also want to consider attending an Oxford Summer School .

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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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tips for writing research papers

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).


The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.


If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources


A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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Do You Overlook These Key Elements When Writing a Research Manuscript?

How to write a research manuscript by avoiding errors

As with any other skill, academic writing can be improved through practice and experience. Writing publishable research manuscripts does not come naturally to most scientific researchers, even those with a great deal of experience. However, because publication is so important to the success of research studies, and thus researchers, writing is often a skill that needs to be strengthened. The good news is information on how to write a manuscript for publication is widely available for those who want to improve their writing skills. We’ll go a step further and shortlist some key elements that often get overlooked when writing research manuscripts.

Introduction issues

As implied by the section name, the Introduction provides the reader with information basic to understanding the study. The problem being addressed is described, a research gap in the existing literature is identified, and the aims of the study are stated. When writing a manuscript for publication, you should leave this section until last. Oftentimes the study you intended to write is not exactly the study you end up with, and it is important that this section is clearly aligned with your actual results.

Another common issue with the Introduction that may negatively affect a research manuscript’s publication is the lack of a clear statement of purpose 1 . The reader, or journal editor, does not want to search for the meaning of the study. Therefore, make sure that your aim is explicitly stated near the end of the Introduction.

Your Introduction may also be judged by what should not be in it. Do not include data or conclusions in your Introduction. In addition, opinions or value judgements do not belong in the Introduction, or in any part of your research manuscript. Consider asking a colleague or friend to read it, as it is sometimes difficult to see this in your own writing.

Effective use of tables and figures

Visual elements such as tables and figures can add a lot of value to a research study manuscript, but their usefulness is often overlooked. Tables and figures, if used effectively, clarify points you make in the text and increase its clarity and overall reader engagement.

What does the effective use of tables and figures mean? It means the visuals are simple and understandable on their own. The title, along with any footnotes, captions, and comments, are enough of an explanation for the reader 1 . Try taking the table or figure out of the manuscript and looking at it alone. Better yet, show it to a few colleagues. Can they understand what the figure or table shows without any explanation from you? If not, simplify and clarify. Ideally, tables and figures should complement your text and break it up to increase readability. You can make your manuscript more publishable by putting some thought and effort into the visuals that you use.

tips for writing research papers

Discussion errors

The Discussion section is also fraught with improvement opportunities for research writers. For research manuscript writers, a weak discussion section is a common cause of publication failure 2 . What makes a weak discussion? Sometimes it comes from not understanding the difference between speculation and evidence-based conclusions 2 . Everything you present must be based on evidence. If you’re going to speculate or assume, make that clear in your writing. Furthermore, your conclusions should be situated in the context of the existing literature and your results analyzed based on the results of previous studies. Do not overstate the meaning of your results 1 .

In addition, authors often miss a few elements in their Discussion section that should be included, such as study limitations and a global context or meaning for the results. How do the results of your study and what you learned affect the discipline? How can they be useful to practitioners or other researchers? In addition, to tie the study together, the aim that was stated in the Introduction needs to be explicitly addressed. Don’t hide anything from the reader.

Overall writing quality

Finally, the best thing you can do to improve your research manuscript is to make it easy for your reader to understand. Consider clarity to be your main goal when writing. If you can clearly convey to your readers what you did and what the research results were, you show that you understand the topic and this helps build trust. If someone can’t follow your thinking because the manuscript is poorly written or too wordy, your study will ultimately lack impact. Always keep the reader in mind and make your study simple to understand.

One good way to check the writing quality is to read the paper aloud to yourself and listen to the words. When you read the same sentences repeatedly, you may tend to read what you intended to write, not what you actually wrote. Another good suggestion is to get a colleague or friend to read the paper and provide feedback.

  • Liumbruno GM, Velati C, Pasqualetti P, Franchini M. How to write a scientific manuscript for publication. Blood Transfus . 2013, 11:217-26. doi: 10.2450/2012.0247-12
  • Gewin V. How to write a first class paper. Nature . 2018, 555:129-30. doi:

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  • Confusing Elements of a Research Paper That Trip Up Most Academics
  • 3 Easy Ways for Researchers to Improve Their Academic Vocabulary
  • What is an Expository Essay and How to Write It

5 Steps to Reduce the Length of the Research Paper Without Losing Content

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  • The Correct Way to Do Your Research: 5 Tips for Students

Mastering the art of research is a fundamental skill that underpins academic success across all disciplines. Whether you’re embarking on a simple essay or delving into a complex thesis, the ability to conduct thorough and effective research is invaluable. Yet, many students find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available, struggling to sift through data, discern credible sources, and organize their findings cohesively. This challenge underscores the need for a structured approach to research, one that simplifies the process while enhancing the quality of the outcomes.

Recognizing the critical role research plays in academic achievement, this article aims to demystify the process, offering five key tips to guide students toward more productive and less stressful research experiences. These strategies are designed to not only streamline your research process but also improve the caliber of your work, potentially transforming the daunting task of starting to dissertation writing help into a more manageable and even enjoyable endeavor. By applying these tips, students can develop a robust framework for research that supports academic growth and fosters confidence in their ability to tackle complex topics.

Tip 1: Define Your Research Question Clearly

A well-defined research question is the cornerstone of any successful research endeavor. It guides the direction of your study, helping to focus your efforts on finding relevant information. Start by identifying the main topic or issue you wish to explore, then narrow it down to a specific question that is both clear and concise. This question should be specific enough to provide direction but broad enough to allow for comprehensive exploration. Examples of effective research questions include “What impact does daily technology use have on teenagers’ social skills?” or “How do renewable energy sources affect global economic policies?”

Tip 2: Use Reliable Sources

The credibility of your research largely depends on the sources you choose. To ensure your work is grounded in reliable information, prioritize sources that are peer-reviewed, such as academic journals, books published by reputable publishers, and websites with authoritative domain extensions (e.g., .edu, .gov). Utilize academic databases like JSTOR, PubMed, and Google Scholar to find scholarly articles. Additionally, learning to assess the author’s credentials, the publication date and the presence of citations can help you determine the reliability of your sources.

Tip 3: Organize Your Research Efficiently

An organized research process is key to managing the wealth of information you’ll encounter. Digital tools and software, such as citation management software like Zotero or EndNote, can be incredibly helpful for keeping track of sources, notes, and bibliographies. Creating a structured outline early on, based on your preliminary findings, can guide your research and writing process, ensuring that you cover all necessary aspects of your topic systematically. This approach not only saves time but also helps maintain a clear focus throughout your project.

Tip 4: Take Effective Notes

Effective note-taking is crucial for capturing important information and ideas from your sources. Develop a system that works for you, whether it’s digital note-taking apps, traditional notebooks, or annotated bibliographies. Focus on summarizing key points in your own words, which aids comprehension and helps avoid unintentional plagiarism. Be sure to record bibliographic details for each source, making it easier to cite them correctly in your work. Highlighting or color-coding can also be useful for categorizing notes by theme or relevance.

By adhering to these foundational tips, students can enhance their research skills, leading to more insightful, well-supported academic papers. The next steps will delve into evaluating and synthesizing information, rounding out the comprehensive guide to conducting effective research.

Tip 5: Evaluate and Synthesize Information

Critical evaluation is essential to differentiate between information that genuinely supports your research question and data that is irrelevant or biased. Assess each source’s purpose, its context, and the evidence it presents. Look for patterns and relationships between the information gathered from various sources. Synthesizing this information involves integrating ideas from multiple sources to construct a comprehensive understanding of your topic. This step is crucial for developing a well-argued thesis or research paper that reflects a deep understanding of the subject matter.

Incorporating Feedback and Revising

Once you’ve drafted your research paper, seeking feedback is a valuable step in refining your work. Share your draft with peers, mentors, or educators who can offer constructive criticism. Be open to suggestions and willing to revise your work based on this feedback. This iterative process of writing, receiving feedback, and revising helps enhance the clarity, coherence, and overall impact of your research.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical research practices are fundamental to maintaining the integrity of your academic work. This includes properly citing all sources to avoid plagiarism, ensuring the confidentiality and privacy of any participants if conducting original research, and being honest about the limitations of your study. Understanding and adhering to these ethical guidelines is crucial for building trust and credibility in your academic endeavors.

The Role of Technology in Research

Technology plays an increasingly significant role in the research process. From digital libraries and academic databases to specialized research software and plagiarism detection tools, leveraging technology can streamline the research process, enhance the quality of your work, and ensure its originality. Familiarize yourself with the technological tools available in your field of study to take full advantage of these resources.

Mastering the art of research is a journey that involves continuous learning, practice, and refinement. By defining clear research questions, utilizing reliable sources, organizing your research efficiently, taking effective notes, and critically evaluating and synthesizing information, you can elevate the quality of your academic work. Remember, incorporating feedback, adhering to ethical guidelines, and leveraging technology are also key components of successful research. For students seeking additional support, turning to the best paper writing service can provide guidance and assistance in navigating the complexities of academic writing and research. Ultimately, developing strong research skills is an investment in your academic success and a valuable asset in your future career.

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10 Research Paper Hacks: Tips for Writing a Research Paper

So, have you been recently assigned a research project? Or, even worse, is it already due soon? The following research paper hacks will help you do it in record time.

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In the article, you’ll see ten things you can do to conduct a study and compose a piece like a pro. Our experts prepared great tips for writing a research paper so that you won’t have trouble studying. It is not an easy task, but you will hack a research paper.

✔️ Pick a Topic

📚 skim texts, ⛔ copy sources, 📝 take notes early, 🗺️ make an outline, 💪 introduce your topic, 📙 review your literature, 🏁 list results, 🙂 discuss in detail, 📰 format the paper, 🔗 references.

Choosing the right topic is essential for your research success. It is also the first challenge you will face while writing. The following research paper hacks will allow you to optimize your time and simplify the process. So, how exactly do you do it?

  • Set a timer not to spend too much time selecting a topic. You can have several brainstorming sessions to come up with the right one. Try to figure out what you are interested in.
  • Search for a gap in the existing literature. There must be at least a small area left untouched by other researchers. Skim different sources to check what viewpoints already exist. You need to do some general background information examination at this point. The research will also help you to narrow the topic of your study.
  • Try to choose the right perspective. Make your question as narrow as you can, and focus on one way of developing it. But not too narrow so that you have study materials and credible sources. Discuss the idea and title with one of your professors. They can also give you much-needed feedback.
  • Use specific examples. No one wants your vague explanations in your research paper. Try to make it clear and practical. Even the most challenging argument can be explained if you use appropriate examples. It all depends on your research and writing skills.
  • Discuss it with your friends. You can propose an idea to them and see their reaction. They may have helpful thoughts too, especially if you’re studying similar subjects. Sometimes an alternative perspective can shed light on the things you’ve overlooked.

Research Paper Topics

  • Acute respiratory failure: a research paper . 
  • Write a research paper on hospital errors and infections as the reasons that worsen patients’ health and lead to fatal outcomes.  
  • Study the most widespread types of cybercrimes and the importance of cybersecurity field development.  
  • Research and compare the advantages and disadvantages of different online gaming aggregators.  
  • Present a research paper on the Supreme Court decision and its effects.  
  • Write a research paper on Caterpillar Inc.’s strategic management . 
  • Research the history of the Ku Klux Klan and its impact on the local communities.  
  • Examine Sophocles’ presentation of the theme of bravery in Antigone .  
  • Analyze the role of historical context in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice . 
  • Write a research paper on the connection between being overweight and the risk of breast cancer development.  
  • Describe the most popular hypotheses of dreaming and their role in psychological studies.  
  • Write a research paper on emerging technologies in criminology . 
  • Research the intellectual property theft problem and the ways to prevent it.  
  • Study the efficacy and safety of the grapefruit diet for weight loss . 
  • Analyze the situation with social rights in the US in the early 19 th century.  
  • Write a research paper on the connection between the deterioration of the situation in the family and juvenile delinquency . 
  • British abolitionism: a research paper . 
  • Examine the specifics and diversity of criminal mythology . 
  • Research the reasons and benefits of keeping domestic animals .  
  • Explore the impact of lockdown on the mental health of older adults. 
  • Analyze the factors that influence consumer decision-making .  
  • Marriage in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: a research paper . 
  • Study the current rates of human trafficking and the ways to reduce them.  
  • Write a research paper on Netflix’s macroeconomic environment.  
  • Examine the effect of alcohol abuse during pregnancy on the baby’s brain. 
  • Research paper on airline industry crises .  
  • Research the symptoms and the current treatment options of Ebola and Marburg viruses .  
  • Analyze the changes in the economic and healthcare situation of the Hispanic community in El Paso, Texas .  
  • Study the challenges of the wine industry in the United States. 
  • Explore the architecture of neural networks and their importance for the human body.  
  • Research paper on the problems of Alzheimer disease treatment.  
  • Examine the role of pain medications in efficient pain management. 
  • Analyze the problem of eldercide and the ways to prevent it.  
  • Research paper on themes in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller . 
  • Conduct research examining the predominant religions in America . 
  • Study the geographical factors that make a country suitable for a comfortable long-term stay. 
  • Research paper on ethics in engineering . 
  • Examine the causes and the current rates of maternal mortality . 
  • Write a research paper on the peculiarities of white-collar crimes .  
  • Research whether raising the minimum wage can help to reduce poverty.  
  • Research paper on childhood pedestrian injuries. 
  • Analyze the role of contract law in everyday life.  
  • Study the link between modernity and modernism . 
  • Research paper on the most frequent reasons for teacher turnover . 
  • Examine the ethical issues of increased patients’ autonomy .   
  • Explore how scheduled sleep behavior can impact stress levels.  
  • Write a research paper on the origin of the abolitionist movement and its impact on the women’s rights movement. 
  • Research paper on Neighbors by Raymond Carver . 
  • Research whether an unhealthy childhood attachment leads to mental issues in an adult. 
  • Analyze the effect of the sex trafficking problem on society.  

No time to read all the sources you find. At this point, only abstracts and conclusions are your goal. If you see something that supports your argument, you can dig a bit deeper and read it more carefully. Of course you could take a 10 page research paper example on the same topic, copy all the resources and be done with it, but that option is far from ideal.

How to read a text fast? Skim through it! It’s one of the essential research hacks.

Skimming can be defined as reading the text quickly to understand what it’s about.

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What to look for while skimming a study.

Pay attention to titles, headings, and subheadings because they tell what the text is about. It is also beneficial if you read the first sentence of each paragraph.

Therefore, to quickly obtain information about the text:

  • Read the title.
  • Read the first sentence of the paragraph.
  • Read the concluding phrases.
  • Read the words in bold.
  • Look at the pictures, charts, and infographics.

Citing sources can be challenging because it involves keeping a lot of details in mind. However, giving credit to the writers is exceptionally crucial.

Thus our tip for writing a research paper is:

Never hesitate to check the reference pages of the articles you’ve found. The authors have probably done an excellent job for you. Feel free to use some of their sources for your paper (surely, after finding them in full).

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If the sources that you need are in a different style or absent at all, you can do the following:

  • Find a citation generator. Use an automatic tool that will reference you. All you will have to do is fill in the form, and it will generate the citation for your essay or thesis.
  • Use templates. There is an abundance of templates available online. These templates will help you to put all the information in place. Research paper thesis generator would be another helpful tool to make the creation process more efficient.
  • Check short reference guides. Instead of reading long and detailed explanations about every style, check some short citation guides . Look for the ones that have examples and rules.

To write a research paper right, you should start making notes as soon as you choose your topic. Do not procrastinate! Whenever you find an interesting quote or some brilliant idea crosses your mind, put them down.

You can take notes either by hand or electronically. Here are some research paper tips for both of these methods:

  • Use index cards for each of your sources.
  • Number the sources.
  • Include the citation in the preferred style.
  • Add a keyword on top of the card.
  • Include “Works Cited/References” card.
  • Write down only the essential information.
  • Use charts, diagrams, drawings to simplify the process.
  • Create a separate file with the sources cited.
  • According to your instructor’s requests, arrange them using the correct style.
  • Group the sources depending on the year, author, area of study, and type.
  • Number sources within the publication.
  • For websites, include their URL.
  • Include keywords to identify the main idea.

Every research paper needs structure. Without an outline, it would be almost impossible to achieve. If you want your writing to have a consistent and logical flow, check these tips on outlining .

No need to reinvent the wheel.

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Standard essay structure

Follow the standard structure to save your time and creative energy for other aspects of writing a research paper:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Limitations
  • Conclusion and Recommendations

To create a good outline that will keep information in a logical manner, you should start with your thesis statement. Then, you should indicate the main ideas that support it.

The critical thesis hack here is to include examples in your outline. Your arguments and illustrations should prove what you are trying to argue in your thesis statement. Putting them in your structure will help you avoid repetitiveness and ensure the flow.

Your introduction is critical. It should be engaging and attention-grabbing to make the reader interested in what your paper is about. It will give the first impression of the text and introduces your thesis statement.

What can be in the introduction?

  • A research question. It is one of the most critical parts of any study. In simple words, it is a question that a research paper tries to answer.
  • A hypothesis. It is a statement that can be proved or disproved. In a way, it can be seen as a guess. Every research paper should have one.
  • A thesis statement. It is a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the research paper. It is further developed and demonstrated with the help of examples.

You might be still wondering about what should go into your introduction. Here is the list of steps:

  • Introduce the topic.
  • Give some background.
  • Tell about academic research.
  • Tell the reader why it is crucial.
  • Introduce the hypothesis.

The next step in your research paper is a literature review . It is an overview of significant works and studies on the topic. It can be anything from a book to an official report.

Here’s what the literature review should include:

  • A description of the work.
  • A short summary of the main points of academic research.
  • A brief analysis of the gaps that you found in the work.
  • An evaluation of the work from the standpoint of its scientific contribution.

However, writing one can be a challenge. Check our research paper hacks to drafting your literature review:

  • Define the goal. Start with your thesis statement in mind and consider your hypothesis.
  • Do your research. Focus on the most relevant scholars in the field. Choose their most recent works that touch on the same matters as your research.
  • Choose the relevant works. Always try to connect your review to what your research paper is about. Throughout this process, keep asking yourself how it is appropriate.
  • Be logical. Think about your review as a form of conversation. Keep adding newer voices to the discussion. Avoid jumping from one source to another chaotically.
  • Include references. You don’t have to include all the details in your literature review.

The last hack for writing a literature review is:

If you find contradicting views, don’t hesitate to include them. It will only show that you understand the question in its complexity. Do your best to find the gap in the existing literature.

The results section of the research paper should include your data and core findings. All of it should be presented logically and coherently. In this section, you will learn how to do it.

See what to include in the results:

  • Data demonstrated in charts and images.
  • An analysis of data in written form.
  • A report on data collection.
  • Data that adresses research questions.
  • Secondary data.

And remember:

Give only facts and figures in the “Results” part of your paper.

The discussion chapter should focus on the paper’s importance and relevance. You can do it by evaluating the results and demonstrating the connection between the literature review.

There are many ways to write this section. However, the chapter’s goal remains the same: to show that the results matter and an opportunity for further scientific research exists.

Now let’s see our research paper tips for the discussion section:

  • It should include an analysis of the results. Write about your findings and what was unusual in them. Also, comment on the trends and patterns.
  • You should mention previous research. You already spoke about other studies in the literature review. You can go back to the main ideas and see how your work fits in the discussion.
  • Deduction. Here you should explain how your results can be applied.
  • Hypothesis. This is more of a general conclusion based on the results.

There is another research paper tip:

Make the “Discussion” the most extended section of your project. Feel free to express your thoughts on this part. Include analysis and interpretation into this part.

To write an excellent research paper, you’ll need to pay proper attention to such a trifle as its format. The easiest way is to find a well-formatted sample using the recommended citation style on a reputable site.

One more quick hack for writing essays and research papers:

Use the features of the text editor and applications to make the formatting process quicker and easier.

So what do you need to format the paper? Here is a short checklist:

  • Title Page. Your title page should include the title of the research, the name, the institution’s name, the header at the top, and the page number. The first three elements are centered. There are a lot of examples available online for you to see how to do it.
  • Abstract. An abstract is a summary of your findings. Not every paper needs an abstract, but only in those where you have a hypothesis. An abstract should also be concise, written in an impersonal style.
  • Headings. Headings help the readers to navigate inside your research. Major themes and topics covered in the paper can be easily identified with their help. The headings are usually centered and written in bold.
  • In-text Citations. In-text citations provide information about the source. There are two fundamental goals: giving credit to the authors and allowing readers to learn more.
  • References. While in-text citations provide brief information about the source, references give a more detailed one. This data helps the reader to follow up and learn more about the cited source.
  • Font and Margins. Check your college style guide to find the font and margins requirement. Sometimes an institution does not give any advice, so try to check with your instructor. Adjusting the font and margins is the last step, but it is essential for your academic success.

Thank you for reading! We hope you enjoyed our article. What about sharing your secrets on how to write a research paper with the public? We hope to see your comments below.

  • Selecting a Research Topic: LibGuides at MIT Libraries
  • Skimming the text: OpenLearn, The Open University
  • Cite Your Sources & Start Your Research: Library Guides at University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Take Notes: Southeastern Louisiana University
  • Literature Reviews: The Writing Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The Discussion, Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Research Guides at University of Southern California
  • Writing an Introductory Paragraph, Starting Your Research Paper: LibGuides at Dean B. Ellis Library, Arkansas State University
  • How to Write a Research Paper: Rice University
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199+ Child Development Topics [Updated]

child development topics

Child development is a fascinating journey filled with countless milestones, challenges, and triumphs. As caretakers, parents, educators, and concerned individuals, it’s crucial to delve into the intricacies of child development topics to provide the best possible support for our young ones. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various aspects of child development, from physical growth to cognitive leaps, emotional nuances, and the influence of the environment.

What Is Child Development?

Table of Contents

Child development encompasses the physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and moral growth of children from infancy through adolescence. It’s a dynamic process influenced by genetics, environment, and experiences. 

Understanding child development topics is essential for promoting healthy growth and addressing challenges effectively.

199+ Child Development Topics: Category Wise

Physical development.

  • Growth milestones in the first year
  • Fine motor skill development
  • Gross motor skill milestones
  • The importance of tummy time
  • Nutritional needs for different age groups
  • Managing childhood obesity
  • Puberty: A guide for parents
  • Understanding adolescent growth spurts
  • Promoting healthy sleep habits in children
  • Dental care for kids: Tips for parents

Cognitive Development

  • Piaget’s stages of cognitive development
  • Language development in infants
  • Early literacy skills
  • Mathematical development in young children
  • Enhancing memory skills in kids
  • Executive function skills and their importance
  • Fostering creativity in children
  • Problem-solving activities for kids
  • Cognitive development in children with disabilities
  • Cultivating a growth mindset in children

Social and Emotional Development

  • Attachment theory and its implications
  • Building secure attachments with your child
  • Recognizing and managing separation anxiety
  • Understanding emotions: A guide for parents
  • Teaching empathy to children
  • Bullying prevention strategies
  • Helping children cope with stress
  • Friendship skills for kids
  • Resilience-building activities for children
  • Supporting LGBTQ+ youth in their development

Moral Development

  • Kohlberg’s stages of moral development
  • Teaching values to children
  • Promoting honesty and integrity in kids
  • Empathy-building exercises for children
  • Discussing ethical dilemmas with children
  • Understanding cultural influences on morality
  • Moral development in the digital age
  • Encouraging civic engagement in young people
  • Addressing prejudice and discrimination in children
  • Promoting kindness and compassion in schools

Environmental Influences on Child Development

  • The role of family dynamics in child development
  • Socioeconomic disparities and child outcomes
  • Cultural influences on parenting practices
  • Technology and screen time guidelines for kids
  • The impact of social media on adolescent development
  • Nature vs. nurture: Debating influences on development
  • Supporting children through family transitions (e.g., divorce)
  • Creating inclusive environments for all children
  • Community resources for supporting child development
  • Preventing childhood trauma and adverse experiences

Developmental Disorders and Challenges

  • Understanding autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Early signs of ADHD in children
  • Learning disabilities: Identification and interventions
  • Sensory processing disorder: Strategies for support
  • Anxiety disorders in children: Signs and coping strategies
  • Depression in adolescents: Recognizing the signs
  • Childhood trauma and its long-term effects
  • Neurodiversity: Embracing differences in learning
  • Supporting children with intellectual disabilities
  • Strategies for inclusive education in schools

Parenting and Caregiving Practices

  • Positive parenting techniques
  • Effective communication with children
  • Setting boundaries and consequences
  • Balancing work and family life
  • Promoting independence in children
  • Fostering a positive body image in kids
  • Discipline vs. punishment: Understanding the difference
  • Parenting through adolescence: Tips for navigating challenges
  • Self-care for parents: Prioritizing your well-being
  • Building a support network as a parent

Educational Strategies

  • The importance of early childhood education
  • Montessori vs. traditional education: Pros and cons
  • Differentiated instruction for diverse learners
  • Incorporating technology in the classroom
  • Project-based learning: Engaging students in real-world tasks
  • Culturally responsive teaching practices
  • Universal design for learning (UDL) principles
  • Supporting English language learners (ELLs)
  • The benefits of outdoor education
  • Teaching social-emotional skills in schools

Future Trends and Research Directions

  • Emerging trends in child psychology
  • Advances in neuroscience and child development
  • The impact of climate change on children’s health and well-being
  • Addressing disparities in access to education and healthcare
  • The role of artificial intelligence in education
  • Promoting sustainability education for future generations
  • Ethical considerations in genetic testing for children
  • Trauma-informed care approaches in schools and communities
  • Parental leave policies and their impact on child development
  • Advocating for children’s rights in a changing world

Miscellaneous Topics

  • The role of pets in child development
  • Supporting siblings of children with special needs
  • The benefits of music education for children
  • Cultivating a love of reading in kids
  • Exploring different parenting philosophies (e.g., attachment parenting, authoritative parenting)
  • Teaching financial literacy to children
  • Promoting environmental awareness in schools
  • The impact of sleep on children’s behavior and learning
  • Teaching children about consent and boundaries
  • Building resilience in children facing adversity
  • Understanding and supporting gifted children
  • The role of grandparents in child development
  • Helping children navigate peer pressure
  • Teaching children conflict resolution skills
  • Gender identity development in children
  • The importance of unstructured playtime
  • Positive reinforcement techniques for behavior management
  • Strategies for teaching emotional intelligence in schools
  • The benefits of mindfulness practices for children
  • Addressing food insecurity in schools
  • The impact of divorce on child development
  • Recognizing signs of child abuse and neglect
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion in children’s literature
  • Teaching children about online safety
  • Supporting children with incarcerated parents
  • Understanding and addressing childhood trauma
  • Fostering creativity and imagination in children
  • Teaching children about consent and personal boundaries
  • Supporting children with anxiety disorders
  • The benefits of play therapy for children
  • Encouraging physical activity in children
  • Strategies for managing ADHD in the classroom
  • Addressing perfectionism in children
  • Teaching children about healthy relationships
  • Recognizing signs of dyslexia in children
  • Supporting children with sensory processing challenges
  • The impact of social media on adolescent mental health
  • Teaching children about emotional regulation
  • Strategies for promoting self-esteem in children
  • Fostering resilience in children facing adversity
  • Understanding and supporting children with ADHD
  • Teaching children about body safety and boundaries
  • The benefits of outdoor play for children’s development
  • Strategies for managing screen time for children
  • Supporting children with learning disabilities in the classroom
  • Recognizing signs of depression in children
  • Teaching children about consent and healthy relationships
  • The impact of divorce on children’s mental health
  • Supporting children with autism in the classroom
  • Teaching children about diversity and inclusion
  • Strategies for managing challenging behaviors in children
  • Promoting positive body image in children
  • Teaching children about emotional intelligence
  • Supporting children with anxiety in school
  • Recognizing signs of autism spectrum disorder
  • Teaching children about empathy and kindness
  • The benefits of art therapy for children
  • Strategies for managing ADHD behaviors in children
  • Promoting self-regulation skills in children
  • Supporting children with dyslexia in the classroom
  • Recognizing signs of childhood trauma
  • Teaching children about healthy communication
  • The impact of bullying on children’s mental health
  • Strategies for promoting positive behavior in children
  • Fostering emotional resilience in children
  • Supporting children with ADHD at home
  • Recognizing signs of anxiety in children
  • Teaching children about body positivity
  • The benefits of mindfulness for children’s mental health
  • Strategies for managing challenging behaviors in children with autism
  • Promoting social skills in children with ADHD
  • Recognizing signs of dyscalculia in children
  • Teaching children about emotional regulation and self-control
  • Supporting children with dyspraxia in the classroom
  • The impact of childhood trauma on brain development
  • Strategies for managing oppositional behavior in children
  • Fostering emotional intelligence in children with autism
  • Recognizing signs of ADHD in girls
  • Teaching children about conflict resolution
  • The benefits of animal-assisted therapy for children
  • Strategies for promoting executive function skills in children
  • Supporting children with ADHD in the classroom
  • Recognizing signs of selective mutism in children
  • Teaching children about self-care and stress management
  • The impact of divorce on children’s academic performance
  • Strategies for managing sensory processing challenges in children
  • Promoting self-esteem in children with learning disabilities
  • Recognizing signs of childhood depression
  • Teaching children about empathy and compassion
  • The benefits of play-based therapy for children
  • Strategies for managing ADHD impulsivity in children
  • Supporting children with dysgraphia in the classroom
  • Recognizing signs of childhood PTSD
  • Teaching children about emotional regulation techniques
  • The impact of bullying on children with ADHD
  • Strategies for promoting positive self-talk in children
  • Fostering resilience in children with autism
  • Recognizing signs of ADHD in toddlers
  • Teaching children about conflict resolution skills
  • The benefits of equine therapy for children
  • Strategies for managing ADHD hyperactivity in children
  • Supporting children with dyscalculia in the classroom
  • Recognizing signs of childhood anxiety disorders
  • Teaching children about mindfulness and relaxation techniques
  • The impact of childhood trauma on social development
  • Strategies for promoting self-regulation in children with ADHD
  • Fostering emotional intelligence in children with learning disabilities
  • Recognizing signs of childhood OCD
  • Teaching children about emotional expression and communication
  • The benefits of drama therapy for children

Tips To Follow For Writing Child Development Research Paper

Writing a research paper on child development requires careful planning and consideration of various factors. Here are some tips to help you successfully navigate the process:

  • Choose a Specific Topic: Select a narrow and focused topic within the broad field of child development. This will allow you to delve deeply into a particular aspect and provide a comprehensive analysis.
  • Conduct Thorough Research: Gather relevant sources such as academic journals, books, and reputable websites. Make sure to use credible sources to support your arguments and provide evidence for your claims.
  • Develop an Outline: Draft a framework for your research paper, encompassing sections such as the introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, discussion, and conclusion. A well-defined outline aids in structuring your ideas and maintaining focus.
  • Craft an Engaging Introduction: Commence your research paper with an captivating introductory segment, offering context about the subject, accentuating its importance, and introducing your research query or central thesis statement.
  • Review Existing Literature: Conduct a literature review to summarize and analyze existing research on your chosen topic. Identify gaps in the literature that your research aims to address and explain how your study contributes to the field.
  • Choose an Appropriate Methodology: Select a research methodology that is suitable for your study, whether it’s qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods. Describe your research design, participants, procedures, and data analysis techniques in detail.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: If conducting empirical research, collect data according to your chosen methodology. Examine the data utilizing suitable statistical or qualitative analysis methods and interpret the outcomes concerning your research query.
  • Examine the consequences and proposals: Within the discussion segment, interpret your outcomes within the framework of current literature and explore their implications for theory, application, and policy. Provide suggestions for forthcoming research and actionable interventions.
  • Write Clearly and Concisely: Use clear and concise language to convey your ideas effectively. Avoid jargon and unnecessary technical terms, and ensure that your writing is accessible to a wide audience.
  • Cite Your Sources Properly: Accurately cite all sources used in your research paper according to the citation style specified by your instructor or academic institution (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). Pay attention to formatting guidelines and include a bibliography or reference list.
  • Proofread and Revise: Before submitting your research paper, carefully proofread it for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Revise as needed to improve clarity, coherence, and flow of ideas.
  • Seek Feedback: Consider seeking feedback from peers, mentors, or professors to gain valuable insights and suggestions for improving your research paper.

By following these tips, you can effectively write a research paper on child development that contributes to our understanding of this important field and informs future research and practice.

Understanding child development topics is essential for promoting healthy growth, supporting children’s well-being, and fostering positive relationships. By delving into the complexities of physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and moral development, we can better equip ourselves to nurture the next generation of thinkers, innovators, and compassionate individuals.

Let’s continue to explore, learn, and advocate for the holistic development of every child.

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